Oliver Jacobs is currently a graduate student pursuing his M.A./Ph.D in cognitive psychology at the University of British Columbia. Oliver was born in Toronto and attended Northern for high school. During this time, hockey played a pivotal role in his life. He played AAA for the Toronto Nationals as a goaltender. He won student athlete awards at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels. Oliver decided to turn down several large scholarships from US universities for hockey to instead focus on academia and start afresh. He attended Queen’s University for his B.Sc. where in first year he had the fortunate of attending the Bader International Study Center at Herstmonceux Castle in East Sussex. His lifelong interests in learning more about the mechanics of human behaviour (both his own, and others) was nurtured during his time in England. When Oliver came back to study in Kingston, he chose to pursue an undergraduate thesis comparing perceptual responses between 2D and 3D stimuli in virtual reality. Oliver developed a strong interest in virtual reality, both as a methodology tool for human research, but also for its greater ability to improve people’s lives. This led him to working with Alan Kingstone in the Brain, Attention, and Reality lab where he is currently. Oliver also founded a virtual reality entertainment company – Visionary Realities – that has partnerships with over a dozen retirement homes. Its goal is to bring the latest VR technologies to immobile populations for therapeutic and entertainment purposes.
Oliver’s research interests mainly revolve around emerging technologies and cognition in the real world. In particular, he strongly advocates for virtual reality, both as a methodology tool for human research, but also for its greater ability to improve people’s lives. His current research is focused on how VR can enable the study of how the head and eyes combine to perceive visual scenes. There is lots of research on how eye movements work and a little on how the head works – but before VR it was practically impossible to enable both eye tracking and head tracking in free viewing. Meaning, there is much to be explored about how the head and eye functionally relate. He currently has two studies involving 360-degree scene viewing involving perturbations to the head and eyes. Outside his thesis, Oliver is interested in other applications of VR to real world problems. For example, he is interested in pursuing VR therapies for cognitive impairment in the elderly while another project he is working on involves how mental rotation tasks differ in VR. Oliver is also a contributing editor to Psychology Today’s VR Blog on research involving VR in psychology. Oliver is beginning a 12-month Mitacs Accelerate internship with affective computing company Maslo starting in the fall of 2019.